Digital Dating And Mobile Hook-Ups: An App-Fueled Quest For Modern Romance

Image courtesy of Don Hankins via Flickr

In a world where half of Americans prefer digital communication over face-to-face, it can be viewed as either a blessing or a curse to be single and dating with your phone as a guide.

Today, communication is laser-fast where it used to lag, and conversations are shrouded in layers of cultivated persona: information which can be zoomed in upon with a simple double click or Google search.

When it comes to digital dating, this constant noise and the breadth of availability can either be viewed as endless opportunity, or just more space to get lost in.

In a study 2013 Online Dating, Pew Research shows that:

  • 11% of Internet users have used an online dating website; 7% have used apps. That number rises to 22% for Americans ages 25-34
  • 66% of online daters actually went on IRL dates, up from 43% in 2005.
  • 59% of surveyed internet users agree that online dating is a good way to meet people

Other research by eHarmony finds that today, 33% of couples have met online, and that by 2040 this number will rise to 70%.

And according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science,  between 2005 and 2012, over a third of married couples met online — though only slightly less likely to end in divorce.

Mobile matching

Online dating is also a lucrative market — a $2 billion dollar industry, to be exact.

40% of the market is controlled by eHarmony and InterActiveCorp (IAC), the latter which owns big players like and OKCupid along with 40 other dating sites, including the increasingly popular (and mobile-native) Tinder.

Outside of these popular destinations, there are hundreds of niche websites — standouts include dating sites for farmers, salad-eaters, cat-lovers, affair seekers, and gingers — plus numerous mobile apps that help connect people by interest, age, location, etc.

More and more, geolocation is becoming a popular tool for such apps. It’s utilized by both Tinder and Grindr, which use a purely photo based swipe approach to make matches based on location and mutual physical attraction — admittedly aimed more at hook-ups than romance.

Still, Tinder boasts their users spend two hours a day on the app, with 3.5 million matches made daily — so is developing a similar feature.

But newbie app Hinge may beat Match as a romance-first Tinder. Users still swipe “right” for yes or “left” for no, but Hinge uses a “romance graph” that targets friends of friends with similar interests based on Facebook and Twitter algorithms. Hinge has also just raised $4 million, according to TechCrunch.

Other notable apps include Coffee Meets Bagel, Mamba, Plenty of Fish, and Skout.

Dating through tech: more or less intimacy?

If we accept the fact that online dating and mobile dating are becoming the new normal, what are the impacts, if any, of constant connectivity, propensity for sharing, and deep wealth of available and stalkable information on relationships?

It’s certainly hard to say. One study found that half of Americans prefer to communicate digitally; another that phone use during conversations diminishes closeness. More research from Pew found that 45% of Americans couples aged 18-29 reported that the internet has had a notable impact on their relationships, both positive and negative.

Others argue that today’s is a new kind of intimacy: technology acts as “projections of our psychophysical personality,” so intimacy by extension has evolved and is even enhanced by it.

In this way, online dating and the apps that fuel it may be new 2.0 version of the age-old search for love and happiness — with Tinderella just as (if not more) likely to find a prince as Cinderella with a smartphone instead of a slipper.

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Jennifer Markert